Have a great Air Force day

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marc Peterson
  • 821st Air Base Group deputy commander
Nearly every day, I wake up excited to go to work. Recently, I asked myself the question, "Why do I enjoy my job so much?" Beyond the obvious answer of satisfying an innate desire to be a part of something bigger than myself, I thought there had to be more to it. Almost immediately, the words of my good friend Chief Master Sgt. Bob Vasquez, U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Character and Leadership Development, echoed in my mind when he frequently bellowed the phrase, "Isn't this a great day to be an American Warrior?"

Let's face it. Today's U.S. Air Force is the most powerful force the world has ever known, and the ability to serve in the Air Force in any capacity is truly rewarding. Less than 1 percent of our society raises their right hand and takes the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. That doesn't make us more important than anyone else, but it does make us special. For me, the opportunity to face our nation's national defense challenges side-by-side with the special men and women of the U.S. Air Force is amazingly motivating.

This election year reminds us of another significant reason we are special. Republican, Democratic, Independent and other candidates express varied views for the direction of our nation. As citizens, we exercise our personal opinions through our right to vote. But as men and women wearing the uniforms of our nation's military we must remain neutral publically. It is special to protect the views of others whether or not they agree with our own.

We have the privilege of serving a commander in chief as one force regardless of our political affiliation. We are special in that our individual differences make us stronger as a military force and as a nation. The news is littered with societies across the globe, torn apart because of their differences. President Abraham Lincoln expressed our special status when he stated, "United we stand and divided we fall."

Recently, my son who is a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet, reminded me of the quote from the Marine Corps Father, Dennis Edward O'Brian who said, "It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag." Now, that is special.

We've been a nation at war for my entire career, and even that is special. Our civilian leaders have decided to engage the military as an instrument of national power across the globe, and our job as warriors is to take the fight to the enemies of freedom whenever and wherever called upon. The understanding that fighting is not our first choice as a nation gives me comfort. I'm reminded of the words of Stephen Decatur when he said, "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." As our nation's sword and shield, its sentry and avenger, we give our all for our nation's defense and that is special.

As I approach the end of a one-year, remote tour at the Department of Defense's northernmost installation, I can't help but reflect on my fortune to serve with a special group of outstanding Airmen, civilian, Danish and Greenlandic teammates. Every day is a privilege to serve, even in the austerity of Thule Air Base's arctic environment. Maybe the chief had it right all along. Let's all wake up each day, look in the mirror and tell ourselves, "Isn't this a great day to be an American Warrior?"